How much does the team’s physical attendance affect the project?

Recently we heard a story from a participant at our course, who told about the challenges he had hosting a workshop in Eastern Europe.

The workshop consisted of two days split up by a couple of weeks in between. At the first day of the workshop, where everybody attended physically, it went really well and there was a huge amount of commitment among the participants. Everyone attended actively and asked a lot of questions through the whole day. There was even an agreement between the employees and the management about, which challenges the organization had.

Through the second part of the workshop the situation got different. At first, the persons who hosted the workshop wasn’t able to be there physically, but was at their office in Denmark. The other important difference was that a lot of the workshop’s participants weren’t there all day and some weren’t there at all. Actually only one out of seven attended through the whole second part of the workshop. This removes the possibility for establishing a common learning and high-quality knowledge, because the knowledge only gets into one’s mind and isn’t validated, challenged and expanded with other knowledge and experience.

The two changes between the first and second part of the workshop brought bigger challenges to the workshop than expected. The eagerness of the of the participants was almost gone and some even wouldn’t show up for the second part. That one person who was there for the whole second part of the workshop didn’t get enough out of it, because he lost the opportunity to create common knowledge together with his colleagues. Overall, the opportunity to create a project foundation where the team gets to deliver on time with the best possible solution, is gone.

We meet challenges like these often in our work. A story like this shows how important it is for the team to be physically represented in the same room in a workshop or project, where the intensity and need for coordination is huge.

Another important point is that it can be a big advantage for the participants in a workshop or project to build up a common knowledge and understanding so that people see things the same way and can spar with each other along the way.

In many projects people aren’t able to be physically together.

The situation can be as following:

  1. People are able to be physically together: They should work together physically.
  2. People aren’t able to be physically together – they think. But if you challenge the organization it is possible after all. People should be moved so that they can be together for the important workshops.
  3. People aren’t able to be physically together. At this point you should gather as many as possible (maybe in two big groups at each location) and make sure, that the communication is supported as good as possible.